Who: Qui-Gon and Soh-Jinn What: Awkward introductions. Where: Garden in Hawaii When: After this. Warnings: None! Status: Complete
Soh-Jinn was more nervous than he had been for his first date. This was ridiculous. He was pacing, his heartbeat was quick, and he just wanted for this to be over. Not over-over. But. The awkwardness over. He wanted the awkwardness over.
He never thought he’d meet his father, but now that the opportunity was upon him, he wanted to more than he ever had. Had he just been fooling himself for years? Perhaps a little, but his mother and he had had a very nice life by themselves. He never felt like something was fully missing, but as he grew older, as he spent time with his friends and their fathers, he did become curious about what his father was like. Qui-Gon Jinn, the great Jedi Master, who had captured his mother’s heart. She wasn’t depressed without him, and Soh-Jinn had been honest with Qui-Gon: she respected his choice, and while she missed him, she hadn’t mourned what she lost. She and her son had really been happy.
But now he was on a weird planet without his mother but with his father. Or a version of his father who wasn’t actually his father. How strange.
He sat back down at a bench in the park where they were going to meet, and even without any Jedi training, even without knowing his father, he knew how to take a deep breath, center himself, and meditate. He found himself focusing and taking deep breaths, watching the flowers across the path. Plants, those made him calm.
Rather than ask Soh-Jinn to navigate an unfamiliar world, Qui-Gon had directed him to the familiar grounds of a park near the University of Hawaii, and seen to travel arrangements for himself. Truth be told, he was reluctant to reach the meeting place. Qui-Gon had never given thought to becoming a father in the manner of most beings. Obi-Wan was the only son he had ever known, and that bond was one made between Jedi. The rules of the Order, and the nature of the Force as felt by the Jedi, made the relationship between Master and Padawan something unique from that of a child to a biological parent, and vice versa. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan shared no blood relation. Theirs was a family built upon shared experience. Soh-Jinn knew Qui-Gon by reputation alone, and Qui-Gon had only the barest knowledge of Soh-Jinn’s mother.
The mission that had introduced Qui-Gon to Bel-Ann Rourke had been a brief one, complicated, but swift. Bel-Ann had provided counsel while Qui-Gon navigated a difficult diplomatic landscape. Chance, or the will of the Force, had brought them together in a public garden on her home planet, where Qui-Gon had been sent to assist in establishing trade routes between various worlds in her native system. He had appreciated her insight, unmarred by the greed or political ambition he had sensed in many of the officials involved. Bel-Ann had helped Qui-Gon to see the situation as the citizens of the system did, rather than as those in seats of power wished for it to be seen. Never had he thought their brief friendship could have become something more in another life.
Fate had little care for human expectations. That much was clear when Qui-Gon reached the edge of the park. The Force hummed with a strange current, one that was both familiar and foreign. Was this what Force-sensitive parents felt when they held their children, he wondered. Not all Jedi were born to Force-blind beings. Some were born to those who, for one reason or another, had a talent for the Force but had never been sent to the Temple. Qui-Gon could sense Soh-Jinn, not in the manner that he sensed Obi-Wan, with whom he had a strong bond developed over the course of many years, but as though a new melody had been threaded into a song, something that, before he heard it, he had not realized was missing.
Soh-Jinn, he realized, was Force-sensitive, though likely not strong enough to have been identified as a potential Temple acolyte. Qui-Gon wondered if the young man could feel his presence.
Soh-Jinn had never been around any other Force-sensitives as far as he knew. But he could feel someone approaching, like a warm breeze. He had feelings like this from time to time of big events or important people. He always seemed to be able to sense where his mother was--and now, it seemed, his father.
He looked at the older man, trying in vain to hide how nervous he was with calm breathing. It had been many, many years since his mother had seen her former lover, and accordingly, he looked older than he had pictured him. But Soh-Jinn could tell that Qui-Gon was still strong, physically but especially mentally. The Force was strong with him.
He got to his feet and gave the Jedi Master a polite, somewhat traditional bow from his home planet. “Sir…” He trailed off, not really knowing what to say after the honorific. It was a confusing enough time to be on a strange planet with strange habits, much less meeting a version of his father who barely knew his mother. “Thank you for meeting with me.” Bel-Ann had made sure her child learned good manners, at least.
Soh-Jinn’s nervousness was clear. Qui-Gon reached to the Force for calm, as much for himself as to be better able to deal with the confusion this meeting was certain to cause for his son. What a strange thing to think, but the proof was right before the Jedi. He had a son, no matter the distance put between them by dimensions.
“Please, there’s no need to be so formal.” Qui-Gon was not a formal man, by Jedi standards, and it felt unnatural for his own blood relation to greet him so stiffly. Had he chosen a family away from the Jedi, he would have been as free and open with his children as he was with Obi-Wan, perhaps even more so, without the strictures of the Order and its traditions to govern their interactions.
“Unless you prefer it … ” he ventured. Did Soh-Jinn find such formality a much needed form of support at a difficult time? Qui-Gon was rarely caught off guard these days, but a grown son from an alternate timeline was enough to undermine his confidence. What did Soh-Jinn expect of him? How much did he know? How different was Qui-Gon from the man Soh-Jinn’s mother had met and described to her son?
Abruptly, Qui-Gon wondered if the Jedi Order in Soh-Jinn’s reality had known of the boy, or if, somehow, he had been overlooked.
Neither Soh-Jinn nor his mother would describe themselves as formal, either. He was normally easy-going and rather content. But despite blood ties, they were strangers, and he knew how to act around Qui-Gon as much as the Jedi knew how to react around him. Formality was helping push him to say something, at least. Otherwise there were too many questions. What did Qui-Gon expect from him? Did having a son greatly upset him?
He watched the older man, eyes somewhat guarded, although he was able to produce a small smile. “I’ve never had a father, I don’t know what I prefer.” Father. It was strange to say it out loud to Qui-Gon, and he was nervous that the word would somehow spook Qui-Gon even more. He didn’t know his own expectations, although he probably had them, but right now, he just wanted to actually get to know what this man was like. His mother had spoken well of him, kind, but stubborn, even radical at times. Very in tune with the Force, particularly the living Force, and he was responsible for a good number of plants on their property. Soh-Jinn had liked that.
“In truth, I don’t know, either.” Qui-Gon missed his Jedi cloak in that moment. He tucked his hands into his pockets, but it lacked the almost meditative familiarity of tucking his crossed arm into his cloak’s sleeves. “I have raised padawans, but never a son.” Qui-Gon hesitated to presume. He imagined what it might have been like to meet his own biological parents at Soh-Jinn’s age. Would he have welcomed them as mother and father? Or would he have found it intrusive had they insisted upon treating him as their child?
“Would you care to sit?” he inquired, indicating the vacated bench with an open hand, “or we could walk the grounds. I could tell you of this world, or of the versions of our galaxy represented in it.” It might be easier to speak to each other in general terms at the beginning, and leave the concerns of family until after they were better used to each other’s company.
“No, you haven’t.” Not in any world that Soh knew of did Qui-Gon raise a son. At least this was less awkward than it would have been in their own universe. He could follow Qui-Gon’s life as much as he could from a distance, but a part of him knew he would never actually confront his father. Here, at least, a meeting didn’t put his Jedi path at risk. “I draw the line at calling you master,” he joked, although it came out a little flat. Was he trying too hard?
Walking. Walking sounded good. He tucked his own hands into his pockets. “A walk would be nice. The grounds are beautiful here.” Maybe it would take some of the edge off to have that to focus on. “By versions of our galaxy, you mean…?”
Laugh lines deepened at the corner of Qui-Gon’s eyes as he offered Soh-Jinn a warm smile. “You can call me Qui-Gon, if you prefer. Not many people call me by my Jedi title, anymore.” Though Qui-Gon cherished his Jedi heritage, there were times when it was best to distance himself from it. This seemed to be one of them. Soh-Jinn had been raised to view the Order as a barrier between him and his father. That Order no longer existed as Soh-Jinn had known it.
“This garden has been a favorite of mine for several years. The grounds crew does an exceptional job. I find it to be a peaceful retreat when I cannot settle my mind indoors.” He nodded in the direction of the university, visible in the distance. “My office used to be there, but the portal chose to meddle, as it so often does. I was displaced only a few weeks ago. I suddenly found myself five years in the past, amongst men and women from our galaxy who came from futures and histories I did not know. You see, the portal remove people from different times as well as different places, and, sometimes, it reaches through to alternate dimensions. For example, there are two different Obi-Wan Kenobis in this world. One is the padawan I rejoined in Hawaii five years ago, when the portal pulled me from the battle for Naboo at the last possible instant. Another is still my padawan, but one whose life took a much more difficult turn.”
“I can call you Qui-Gon, if you like,” he agreed, finding it easy to smile back, at least. With age, it was likely he would get the same laughter lines that his father had. That much was already showing. He knew very deeply how much the Jedi Order meant to Qui-Gon, since the man had left a woman he cared about to return to them and his calling, and Soh-Jinn was relieved that he didn’t seem to bear it badly to have lost that title here.
“I can see why,” Soh-Jinn agreed, falling into step alongside Qui-Gon as they headed on a path. “It’s almost humming with contentment.” He reached out and let his fingers run along a leafy branch of some kind. At least, if he were stuck here, he might still be able to study botany. “What were you teaching before you came here?” he asked, letting himself focus on that instead of the insanity that was this portal. Alternate dimensions? Two Obi-Wan Kenobis? “It sounds like things have been quite busy here.”
“What would you prefer I call you?” They were barely acquaintances at this juncture. Qui-Gon had no wish to distance Soh-Jinn by overstepping his bounds. Regardless of whether Soh-Jinn wished for a relationship with Qui-Gon, it could be difficult for him to feel alienated from the others native to their galaxy. Qui-Gon would not jeopardize Soh-Jinn’s ability to rely on them by making him feel uncomfortable.
His eyebrows rose at the younger man’s remarks on the garden. “You can sense it?” Had Soh-Jinn inherited an affinity for the Living Force?
“I taught philosophy,” he went on to explain. “The local authorities have made an effort to help portal arrivals to adjust. For some of us, that means translating our existing knowledge and experience into credentials valid in this world. They were able to assist me in obtaining the needed credentials to put my skills to use at the university.”
“My name’s always been good. Soh-Jinn...or just Soh.” He was happy with either, if the Jinn part unsettled Qui-Gon. He wasn’t sure what the boundaries were himself, and he didn’t know any of the other natives to their galaxy to feel upset about if he didn’t get to know them. There was only one person he cared about right now: Qui-Gon.
And he felt that surprised look from Qui-Gon and kept his eyes ahead. “A little. I’ve always preferred to be outdoors myself.”
“Philosophy? That sounds fancy.” Far from what he was thinking about studying. “The authorities here have been really good. More useful than they were at home,” he joked.
“Soh-Jinn, then,” Qui-Gon confirmed. He experienced the oddest sense of pride that Bel-Ann had given her son his father’s name, in her own subtle way. Their parting may have been amicable, but Qui-Gon would not have faulted her if she’d chosen to exclude him--the alternate him--from her son’s life entirely.
“What you feel is the Living Force,” the Jedi explained. “These gardens resonate with it.”
Qui-Gon ducked his head to hide another smile when Soh-Jinn described philosophy as fancy. “It’s similar in some ways to teaching in the Temple. The students often teach me in turn.” He turned down one of the less traveled paths, a corner of the garden that featured some of the less colorful native species. “We are all fortunate that this world has embraced us. Their response could have been far less hospitable.”
And Soh-Jinn felt the oddest sense of affirmation that Qui-Gon accepted the name--accepted that he was Soh-Jinn’s father, in some alternate universe way. It made him realize, a bit to his chagrin, that he wasn’t just curious about Qui-Gon. He did want Qui-Gon to accept him as family, maybe even be proud of him, if he were pushed. He didn’t normally care about approval from people he just met, but this was different.
“The Living Force? Isn’t the Force all about living?” The energy that surrounds all living things: what would any other type of Force be?
Philosophy was fancy, and he felt beyond someone like him. “The schools on my world weren’t that advanced.” They were good, but they were geared and limited to the needs of the planet. He was planning on going off world even to study botany, and after hesitating, he shared that. “I was about to enroll in a university on a nearby planet, for botany research. I suppose I could still work on that here.” He gave Qui-Gon an understanding smile. “No, people dropping out of the sky don’t normally get a welcome mat.”
Soh-Jinn’s questions made Qui-Gon feel at ease. He slipped into his role as teacher as naturally as he performed the simplest of katas, without hesitation or doubt. The Force warmed with approval. On some level, Qui-Gon and Soh-Jinn were family, regardless of whether Qui-Gon had been with Bel-Ann in his own memory.
“The Force unites all living things, yes. There are different aspects to it, however. Some Jedi feel a stronger affinity for one facet of the Force over another. Jedi who are grounded in the moment, and in the lives present in their immediate surroundings, are typically tied to the Living Force. Those who tend to sense possibilities and see a larger picture, as though watching from a distance, are often more attuned to the Unifying Force. These same affinities can exist in any Force-sensitive being.” He left out, for the time being, affinities for the Dark over the Light Side.
“I remember the schools in passing,” Qui-Gon said of Soh-Jinn’s planet. “In my timeline, I was dispatched on a mission to oversee the negotiation of trade routes in the region. Your mother--or, at least, the Bel-Ann that I knew--showed me the reality of life on her planet, as opposed to the image that the politicians and lobbyists wished outsiders to see.” He had hoped that the new trade routes would improve access to opportunities for the local populace. Were those routes established in Soh-Jinn’s reality, or did they never come to be? Qui-Gon doubted that his departure from the Order would have prevented another Jedi from achieving the success he had in the system.
“Be glad we land in the ocean,” he then went on, with a teasing curve of his lips. “And that you were young and healthy when the portal sent you swimming.”
He listened to Qui-Gon’s explanation with open interest. “I suppose I generally do focus on the present,” he said, tilting his head as he thought about his own habits. He had always assumed he was Force-sensitive, too, because of the feelings he sometimes got about particular situations. “But I never investigated Jedi teaching much.” It had never seemed wise, for a variety of reasons.
Soh-Jinn gave an affectionate smile. “That sounds like Mom. The trade routes were improved, sometime when I was very young, I think. The cities are doing very well, and we all benefit, but education still tends to be very focused on accomplishing a few specific things.” The logic was to do a few things very well than to try to do everything, which Soh-Jinn thought was relatively sound reasoning. There were opportunities for people if they would travel.
He laughed, catching Qui-Gon’s teasing curve. “Well, not all of us end up in planetary battles--for which I am grateful, of course.” He didn’t exactly see himself as a fighter like the Jedi.
“I can teach you, if you would like to learn,” Qui-Gon offered, “or another of the Jedi here, if you would prefer.” He made the latter suggestion only to allow Soh-Jinn an escape from a potentially awkward situation. Qui-Gon would understand if accepting Jedi teaching from a man who was, essentially, his absentee father would leave Soh-Jinn ill at ease. “Obi-Wan and Anakin each have unique perspectives. I’m certain they would be willing to share them.”
It was good to hear that Soh-Jinn’s planet was benefiting from at least some improvements. Though it was hardly the poorest or most unstable planet in the galaxy, it had not boasted the affluence that many of the Core Worlds had enjoyed. “I’m glad to know that there has been change for the better, and that you had the opportunity to pursue your studies. You can certainly continue them here, though I think you’ll find that the science is not quite what you’re accustomed to at home. Still, you have an entirely new planet to explore.”
His smile was gentle, this time, as he took in Soh-Jinn’s thoughts on battle. “The Jedi are called to serve. We would prefer to avoid conflict, but it is not always possible.”
Soh-Jinn looked unsure at the suggestion. “Is it worth it? I mean...I’m not exactly going to become a Jedi.,” he clarified. He didn’t want to sound dismissive of Qui-Gon’s offer, but Jedi learned Jedi things and non-Jedi didn’t. That’s how he understood it, and despite his parentage, he wasn’t part of the Jedi world. Qui-Gon didn’t have to offer to teach him out of some weird sense of duty.
“I miss home, and I miss Mom,” he spoke honestly. “And I’ll probably miss it all more once the reality sinks in that this isn’t just some trip.” Right now, he was fully living in the moment and hung up on the fact that he was meeting his father. He was hard to move beyond that at present. “But if the rest of the world is as beautiful as this, I’m sure I’ll find something to do.” He always had had a healthy sense of optimism. Otherwise, not having a father might have made him very bitter.
“I suppose most people operate that way,” he said. “But I’m content not having to make that choice.”
“Whether it’s worth it or not is a decision only you can make.” The answer was a classic example of Jedi Master ambiguity, something Soh-Jinn would have to get used to whether he chose to pursue lessons on the Force or not. His life, in spite of apparent efforts to avoid such a turn, was full of Jedi Masters, now. “You are correct in that you’re too old for traditional training, but you can still learn, if you wish.” Qui-Gon glanced at his son. “There’s no need to make a decision at this moment. You already have a great deal to consider.”
The Jedi set his attention forward again. “This world is beautiful, but troubled, as many worlds are. We all miss the lives we left behind in one way or another. It’s possible that your mother might arrive, but it is also possible that she will not. I am sorry that there’s no way to reach her. Though I should tell you that those we leave behind never know that we are gone. To Bel-Ann, you are still right where you should be, preparing for university.”
That was not a useful response. Soh-Jinn raised his eyebrows and considered what to say, but at least Qui-Gon spared him the trouble of having to decide right now. It might not seem like a large decision in this world to learn about the Jedi teachings and his Force sensitivity, but in his mind, it was a huge choice. The Jedi were their own league in his mind. He needed time to think about it. “Yes, I do. But I’ll think about it,” he promised, and he meant it.
He gave a smirk at Qui-Gon’s condolences. “You don’t need to apologize. I know you wouldn’t have chosen this for either of us.” Soh-Jinn separated from the people he cared about, Qui-Gon with a surprise, potentially unwanted son. Qui-Gon was being very generous to him, but Soh-Jinn had no delusions that the Jedi Master was particularly excited at this turn of events.
“Still, for what it’s worth, I am sorry that I’m not him. Not the Qui-Gon Jinn you expected.” The Jedi Master paused and turned to regard Soh-Jinn. “It is a shock to have you here,” he admitted, “but not an unpleasant one.”
Qui-Gon wondered if there were more he should say. What would his other self have done or said? Had he known or at least suspected? If he had, Qui-Gon suspected that his alternate self might have kept his distance out of respect for Bel-Ann’s decision, and for the precepts of the Order. Losing Tahl had changed him, and if the other Qui-Gon had experienced that, he might have shied away from the prospect of a family and the inherent consequences.
“He might not have taken the news any more graciously than you did,” he said with a shrug. But he gave a little smile despite himself when Qui-Gon said the news was not unpleasant. “That was almost a compliment, sir. Er, Qui-Gon,” he corrected when he caught himself being overly formal again. That was just generally how he talked to adults he didn’t know.
He was smiling still, but he didn’t know what else to say. On the one hand, he prefered to follow his lead. On the other hand, Qui-Gon was as confused as he was. So.
“The Force might have shouted a little louder in his ear,” Qui-Gon returned, with a hint of humor. “I should hope he would have been quicker to catch on, especially when Padme had just mentioned something about a son the day before. There is no such thing as coincidence, according to some Jedi.” He sobered, then. “Regardless, you have my support in this world, if you want it, and if it is also what you wish, I would like to get to know you better.”
“You were pretty dense,” Soh-Jinn admitted playfully. It had started to really upset him, but now at least he understood why Qui-Gon might not immediately assume a biological connection. “Is Padme a friend? From our world?” He only knew the Queen of Naboo by her title Amidala, and even then, he hadn’t paid as much attention to that part of the report of what was happening. But support and knowing his father were two things that most children wanted, and he was no exception. His smile was hopeful. “I appreciate that. Yes, I’d like to get to know you, too.”
“She is. In fact, she’s family. She married my padawan some years ago, after we found ourselves in Hawaii for the long term. There happens to be another Padme here, as well as two different Anakin Skywalkers, and two Obi-Wan Kenobis, and several different pairs of Skywalker twins. You may also meet Anakin’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano. I’m afraid it’s complicated.” He would like to have simplified introductions for Soh-Jinn, but Qui-Gon had yet to sort all of them out himself.
“Do you have a place to stay? You would be welcome in our home.”
His eyebrows shot up at the phrase she married my padawan. Well. That might explain why Qui-Gon might be more at ease about supporting a son than Soh-Jinn assumed he would be. That was a lot of people. But the invitation to his home made the boy feel a little self-conscious. “Are you sure? I mean--I don’t have a place to stay, but I wouldn’t want to barge into this family.”
“I’m certain. I’ll understand if you would prefer other arrangements, but you are welcome.” Padme would insist, Qui-Gon thought, though he didn’t want Soh-Jinn to feel pressured. “You aren’t barging in.”
He studied Qui-Gon closely to see if he were sincere, but of course his Force powers weren't that useful. Nevertheless, it felt okay, and he smiled. “I suppose for a while. Until I figure things out.”
“As long as you need,” Qui-Gon assured him, with a pleased smile of his own. “We can go now, if you’d like.”
Smiling was good. This was okay. “Sure, if you’re done with this walk.”